“I can tell you we are pursuing it aggressively because we need it,” Cayetano told the media. A deal on joint exploration was expected in three months, he said.
Bilateral meetings in Manila this week discussed looking past ongoing maritime disputes, with Beijing claiming around 80 per cent of the resource-rich South China Sea.
Cayetano said the government was committed to exploring for new sources of energy as the Malampaya gas field, which supplies several Philippine power stations, will eventually deplete.
Despite quipping that he would try to retake Philippine islands on a jet ski during his electoral campaign, President Rodrigo Duterte (pictured), who took office in mid-2016, has alarmed defence analysts and lawyers by downplaying claims to accomodate China, which is promising military and economic aid.
“Whatever we do, it will not only [be] in accordance with Philippine law but also the UNCLOS [UN Convention on the Law of the Sea],” Cayetano said.
He said talks would only cover exploration, not actual development.
“Right now, we have not discuss[ed] developments. We are discussing exploration first. What’s the use of the debate whether or not the constitution allows a joint development if we don’t know if there is anything we can harvest?” Cayetano asked.
He said an existing tripartite deal between the oil companies in the Philippines, Vietnam and China could act as a possible model for joint maritime exploration. The deal was signed under then president Gloria Arroyo in 2005.
However, opposition politicians challenged the deal’s legality in the Supreme Court in 2008 and a decision is still pending.
The outspoken Duterte has sparked controversy by suggesting Filipinos avoid using condoms because they “aren’t pleasurable”.
The 72-year-old advised returning overseas workers, mostly women, to use contraceptive pills instead, illustrating his point by putting a wrapped sweet to his mouth.
“Here, try eating it without unwrapping it,” Duterte said.
“Eat it. That’s what a condom is like.”
Philippines is experiencing the fastest growing epidemic of HIV in the Asia-Pacific region and health groups have long campaigned for Filipinos to use condoms to reduce unwanted pregnancies, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Activists say that, despite attempts by the Catholic church to restrict access to condoms, they have helped reduce the high maternal mortality rate.
Duterte this week also encouraged soldiers to shoot female rebels in their genitals.
“Tell the soldiers…there’s a new order from the mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina,” the former Davao mayor told a group of former communist rebels.
“If there is no vagina, it would be useless,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte with China’s Xi Jinping. Picture credit: Wikimedia